From October 2017 until February 2018, I was mostly in Cairo, Egypt. I did take a trip to Israel and Dubai, and I came back to Encinitas for the holidays for two weeks. But for the most part, my winter was spent studying Arabic in Al Qahira.
I was thinking back on it last night. It was a weird experience. It was very scary at times, especially when I was the only white person in the dense crowd of a fourteenth-century market, and everyone was glaring at me. But for the most part, Cairo was incredible. I could see myself spending a lot of my life there.
There’s a lot that made living in Cairo amazing: the food, the art scene, my friends, my living situation. But one thing I think back on a lot is the lifestyle I had. It was utter luxury.
Because one US Dollar was worth seventeen Egyptian Gineeh. For reference, you could get a meal for ten Gineeh and a fifteen-minute Uber ride was about 20 Gineeh.
I lived in the nicest part of Cairo, Zamalek. My house was surrounded by jewelers, art galleries, and nice restaurants. I had a massive apartment to myself and doormen who would run errands for me. I had a maid who would come and clean every inch of my house, who only charged the equivalent of $15. I stopped at the bakery next door to my house every morning for a blue cheese or Emmental croissant.
I got massages weekly at Boutique Spa and tipped everyone handsomely. I shopped at the Egyptian Equivalent of Whole Foods, Gourmet. My fridge was stocked with foreign cheeses, nice wine, fresh juices, cured meats, and all different kinds of snacks. It was awesome.
My friends and I constantly ate at out. There was an Indian restaurant that we frequented and an Italian restaurant down the street that made pasta in a wheel of cheese. I was probably Zööba‘s highest paying customer at one point. Side note: If you ever get a chance to eat at Zooba, order the ful, Baladi, and Koshari.
Every Sunday, my friends and I would have brunch at this place called Sequoia. A laid-back restaurant on the Nile, Sequoia was a popular place for expats and the well-off locals. My friends and I would order a Turkish coffee and shisha to start, and then followed it up with hummus, Baladi, lebnah, fried halloumi, and anything else we could ever want.
Even though we were in the nicest part of Cairo, things were still fairly cheap. I bought sweaters, socks, shirts, and jeans made from Egyptian cotton. I collected all kinds of art (trinkets, paintings, sculptures etc.) from the galleries around my house. My body was soon adorned with all kinds of silver jewelry; rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets. I went to local beauty shops and bought essential oils, candles, lotions, shampoos, hair products, oils, robes, slippers, and soft towels. I could have anything I wanted.
Since the wifi in Egypt was crap, I went through about sixty gigabytes of data a month and it was maybe $30. My friends and I rented yachts, went scuba diving in the Red Sea, and partied like there was no tomorrow.
So, look, I’m genuinely not trying to brag. I’m just trying to show you what it’s like to live in a place like Egypt, where your own currency is seventeen times stronger than the local currency.
In Europe, my budget was $35 a day. It barely covered my toiletries, food, laundry, and public transportation. But in Egypt, $20 a day got me high-end groceries, massages, maids, jewelry and clothes, dry cleaning, five Ubers a day, entertainment, and pretty much anything I could ever want. It was the first time in my life that I had lived in complete luxury.
It wasn’t just me that experienced it. Most foreigners did. To be honest, that’s why a lot of them moved there.
But that’s not the only reason. Although Egypt was not super clean or safe, the social life there was amazing. The food was amazing. The culture, art scene, the everyday life was amazing.
So if you get the chance, go to Egypt. It’ll blow you away. Ten out of ten, would recommend.